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Albanian President Calls on People to Topple Government

FILE - Albanian President Ilir Meta speaks during a news conference in capital Tirana, Albania, June 10, 2019.
FILE - Albanian President Ilir Meta speaks during a news conference in capital Tirana, Albania, June 10, 2019.

Albania's president on Wednesday called on the people of his nation to topple the left-wing government, which he accused of violating the country's constitution and of links to organized crime.

President Ilir Meta said at a news conference that he hopes people will come to the capital Tirana on March 2. He said on that day he plans to sign his first decree against what he says is a “coup d'etat” being carried out by the government through the justice system.

The call by Meta comes as the Balkan nation of nearly 3 million has been enacting reforms in hopes of getting a green light to launch membership talks with the European Union in hopes of joining the bloc one day.

He said that a justice system reform approved three years ago to root out bribery and ensure that judges and prosecutors are independent from politics, part of the effort to embrace EU standards, has failed.

Meta's appeal was apparently a counter-move against the governing Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama, which has launched impeachment proceedings against him, the first in post-communist Albania, stemming from Meta's attempt to cancel last year's municipal elections.

Before taking the post almost three years ago Meta was leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration Party, a small left-wing grouping now in opposition.

He tried to cancel municipal elections last year, arguing that a boycott by center-right opposition parties made them undemocratic and that he feared a violent civil confrontation.

Election authorities overruled his attempt and the Socialists won most of the elections and also dominate parliament now.

Lat year the opposition boycotted the parliament and the vote, accusing the government of vote-rigging and of links to organized crime. For months it held protests that often turned into violent clashes with police.

The parliament, dominated by the Socialists, is expected to produce a report in March that will likely ask for Meta's ouster.